Rich Saunders concludes his in-depth look at what modern night vision technology can offer the airgun hunter, this time focusing on IR add-ons
Over the last couple of issues we’ve looked at, or rather through, dedicated infrared and thermal scopes that are used in place of daytime glass. To round out our night vision series we’ve now got five infrared add-on products on the bench.
As their name suggests, these products attach to your day scope, either at the back or front, and transform them for use in the dark.
Apart from saving money in most cases, add-ons have the additional benefit of enabling you to use your normal scope during the day and then quickly and easily swapping over to night vision mode without having to change your zero.
Thanks to Sportsman Gun Centre, Pard’s official UK distributor, we have the new NV007S (£535) as well as the NV007A (£332.99), whilst John Rotherey Wholesale has loaned us a NiteVizor HUD X150 (£339.95).
Night vision specialist Thomas Jacks has sent us a Pulsar Forward F455S, which retails at £1,119.95, plus £109.95 for a scope attachment.
And rounding out the line-up is a Wulf Night Vision Rear Scope Add On which is marketed by Elite Optical Distribution and costs £694.95.
Pard’s NV007 is largely responsible for a new class of infrared night vision add-ons, spawning a number of me-too products.
To stay ahead of the game, the company launched the NV007S, with several design and feature enhancements. At 118x75x102mm and 265g, it is as light and compact as its siblings and fits within the eye relief tolerance of most conventional scopes.
Pressing the power button gets you up and running in the blink of an eye and a quick press of the ‘+’ button activates a sleep mode to save the battery. The same button indicates a red laser function disabled for the UK market.
The left button switches between colour and black and white day/night modes, as well as three levels of brightness from the integrated and adjustable 850nm IR torch. A claimed range of 200 yards is a little ambitious, but fine for airgun use. And there’s a short Picatinny mount if you prefer to use an external illuminator.
The centre button records images and footage from the 1080P sensor to a micro-SD card. The bottom button activates the wifi feature and scrolls through the 1.5 to 3.5 digital zoom.
The NV007S is powered by a rechargeable 18650 li-ion battery installed vertically, making it easier to change on the scope. Pard claims eight hours of run time.
Another improvement is the image focus. On other models this is achieved by adjusting the scope’s parallax setting. You can do so on the NV007S by tweaking a knob on the left of the body, which makes fine adjustment easier. In addition, an ocular ring brings the 1024×768 OLED display into sharp relief.
Attaching the NV007S requires a collar to be attached to the eye bell – you get some plastic shims and a roll of tape to ensure a snug fit for different sized scopes.
Once attached, the unit snaps on in seconds, but if you plan to use the NV007S on different rifles you’ll want to purchase additional aftermarket attachments.
NiteVizor HUD X150
Heads-up shooting, in which you take aim via a screen rather than through a scope, may seem a little counterintuitive, but products like the NiteVizor HUD X150 can be extremely effective on an air rifle.
At just 250g and measuring 115x96x58mm, the HUD X150 will attach to most scopes with an eye bell between 35 and 48mm wide with a two-part screw on attachment that includes a couple of plastic shims. Once fitted, the HUD X150 attaches with a bayonet type fitting, making it easy to swap between different rifles.
Once you’ve jiggled the unit into position to ensure the crosshairs are central in the screen and level, a large wheel adjusts the reticle focus. An ocular ring and the scope’s parallax adjustment sharpens the target image.
The five-button layout is clearly marked. Each one performs two functions with long and short presses.
The central power button also operates a sleep mode and the left button toggles between a colour day mode and black and white night operation that relies on a three-level integrated 850nm IR torch, the beam for which can be adjusted.
NiteVizor claims a range of 200 metres, which again is a bit of a stretch, but is fine for airgun use, and you can adjust the brightness on the screen to reduce glare.
Photos and 1920×1080 30fps video is recorded onto a mini-SD card (not supplied) at the press of a button and attaching the HUD X150 to a power supply via a USB cable recharges the 18650 battery for up to eight hours of use.
The HUD X150 does not have any magnification capability, relying instead on adjustment via the scope itself. It does have a wifi function though, and downloading the Roadcam app enables you to view the screen remotely and record footage.
Until it came about, most of us used heads-up screen-type equipment that involved lots of components and cables. All of a sudden, the Pard NV007 was compact, easy to fit and meant we could aim our rifles in the conventional way.
There are several models now and we’ve already covered the NV007S, however the entry level NV007A still ticks a lot of the boxes with models that have either a 16mm lens with 4x digital zoom or 12mm lens with 1x zoom. In all other regards they are identical, weighing 250g and measuring 106x97x47mm.
Attachment is via a sleeve that attaches to the rear of your scope and tightened with a couple of Allen screws. The sleeve provided will accommodate eye bells up to 45mm, with 42m and 48mm versions also available.
A soft rubber eye cup makes addressing the 35mm eye relief comfortable. And once you’ve centred your reticle image, an ocular adjustment focuses the crosshairs. The target image is sharpened via the parallax adjustment and then fine-tuned with a dial on the underside.
Like most other competing products, the Pard NV007A is powered by a supplied 18650 rechargeable battery which is claimed to serve up to eight hours of use. Much will depend on your use of the wifi function and the integrated adjustable-beam IR torch which offers three levels of brightness.
The high-definition 1024×768 OLED display is very clear in both colour day and black and white night modes. Pard claims a 200-yard detection range. However, whilst the onboard IR illuminator is excellent at 12 ft-lb hunting distances, I’d use a more powerful torch for FAC and centrefire use.
The button layout is the same as that of the NV007S. The buttons are easy to locate in the dark and work with a reassuringly positive, but muted click.
The centre button activates the NV007A’s 1920×1080 30fps AVI video mode which works in conjunction with a micro-SD card.
Pulsar Forward F455S
The Pulsar Forward F455S is the most expensive product on test. However, it is designed to perform at a level higher than required for hunting alone.
At 830g and with dimensions of 155x136x77mm, it’s a substantial piece of equipment and even if you plan to shoot from sticks or some other rest, you’ll notice the change in your rifle’s balance.
The F455S is attached via a collar that clamps to the objective lens on your scope. The collars cost an additional £109.95. There are versions for scopes with 42mm, 50mm and 56mm objective lenses, which includes plastic adaptors to suit different lens housings.
With the collar attached, fitting the F455S via a four-point bayonet system is quick and easy, enabling you to swap into night mode with a minimum of fuss.
The supplied Pulsar Ultra 940X illuminator has three levels of intensity and a position-adjustable beam. Removing it reveals a short Picatinny rail. On the other side is a high-capacity IP7 battery which Pulsar says will give nine hours of run time.
With 1x magnification, the F445S works best with scopes up to 8x magnification. The 1280×720 CMOS sensor, 1746×2000 HD display, 50Hz frame rate and 50mm objective lens combine to deliver a superbly crisp image. Pulsar claims a detection of 500 metres and whilst I had no way of ranging the distance on my test, I wouldn’t argue against it.
The large focus knob is easy to locate and the four buttons are large and positive.
In addition to settings for brightness and contrast, they activate the recording function, saving content to a 16GB internal memory, and activate the Bluetooth and wifi settings which work in conjunction with the free Pulsar Stream Vision 2 app.
Given the front-of-scope configuration, controls are an arm’s length away. However, a remote control operates all the key tasks, including the photo and video record functions.
Wulf Night Vision Rear Scope Add On
Wulf night vision gear is a new entry to the market but is quickly making a name for itself. And it’s not hard to see why; the package is comprehensive and great value for money, especially if you shop around.
The pack comprises an IR illuminator, a couple of scope attachments with plastic shims, a rubber eye cup, battery charger and adjustable Picatinny mount to attach the IR torch. You also get a pair of rechargeable batteries, a mini-SD card, some Allen keys, a USB cable and the Wulf Shadowlux, which comes in its own hard case.
Designed for scopes with 42mm or 45mm eye bells, the attachment collar is fixed into place with a couple of Allen screws and the NV unit clips on via a bayonet attachment. The unit measures 133x94x64mm without the rubber eye cup, and weighs just over 400g with a battery, which Wulf says gives up to three hours of use.
A ‘Mode’ button toggles between camera, video and playback function. Pressing the ‘Snap’ button saves images and footage to a micro-SD card. The menu covers all the essentials and the ‘up’ button also switches instantly between colour day and monochrome night mode.
The 1280×960 resolution screen is crisp. The combined ocular ring, a focus knob on top of the unit and your scope’s parallax adjustment brings the target image and reticle into sharp relief.
At 130x85x55mm and weighing 460g with a battery, the 850nm IR illuminator supplied in the box is attached via the supplied Picatinny mount. The Shadowlux torch is attached the same way and at the flick of a switch delivers 850 and 940nm IR and white LED with an adjustable focus beam and variable rheostat.
The image is clear at ranges longer than usable with an air rifle. Wulf says the illuminator is good for 400 yards, and the battery provides around 1.5 hours of use. And you can easily swap to a laser IR torch.
Added functionality for your day scope
It’s fair to say that a dedicated IR scope has the edge on performance. However, when it comes to affordability and the flexibility to swap between glass during day and IR night vision, add-ons can’t be beaten.
As ever, plan your purchase to suit the type of night shooting you do. If controlling rats at relatively short distances is your thing, then heads-up display products like the NiteVizor are hard to beat, especially as they make it easy to scan for targets.
However, if you target rabbits at night, one of the products that enables you to look through your scope may make more sense.
There’s no hard and fast rule, but a good add-on will help you add to your success no matter what you’re after.
|Name||PULSAR FORWARD F455S||PARD NV007S||PARD NV007A||WULF ADD ON||NITEVIZOR HUD X150|
|MAGNIFICATION||1x||4-14x||1x and 4x models||1.7x||4x|
|IR RANGE (CLAIMED)||500 metres||200 yards||200 yards||400 yards||200 metres|
|SENSOR RESOLUTION||1280×720 CMOS||1080P||1080P||1920×1080 NIR CMOS||2 million pixel|
|SCREEN RESOLUTION||1746×1000 AMOLED||1024×768 OLED||1024×768 OLED||1280×960 LCOS||600×400|
|VIDEO||Yes||Yes 1920×1080 30fps||Yes 1920×1080 30fps AVI||Yes MP4||Yes 1920×1080 MOV|
|PHOTOS||Yes||Yes||Yes 2592×1944||Yes JPG||2592×1936|
|BATTERY / RUN TIME (CLAIMED)||9 hours||8 hours||8 hours||3 hours (illuminator 1.5 hours sustained)||8 hours|
|WATERPROOF RATING||IPX7||IP67||IP67||IPX6||Not stated|
|WIFI / BLUETOOTH||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|